Quick as thought, at sound of the
imperative summons and sight of the levelled weapons,
Gabriel swept up most of the papers and crammed them
into the breast of his loose flannel shirt, then dashed
the lamp to the floor, extinguishing it. The
room grew dark, for now the fire had burned down to
hardly more than glowing coals.
There was no panic; the men did not
curse, neither did the women scream. As though
the tactic had already been agreed on, Craig tipped
the table up, making a kind of barricade; and over
it Grantham’s revolver, snatched from his belt,
It all happened in a moment.
The foremost spy grunted, coughed
and plunged forward. As he fell, he fired his
The bullet a small, thin
metal shell, filled with a secret chemical and liquid
oxygen went wild. It struck the wall,
some feet to the left of the fireplace, and instantly
the wood burst into vivid flame. Flesh would
crisp to nothing, solid stone would crumble, metal
would gutter and run down, under that awful incandescence.
Again Grantham’s revolver barked,
while Bevard tugged at his own, which had unaccountably
got stuck in its holster. But this second shot
missed. And even as Grantham’s bullet snicked
a long splinter from the door-jamb, the second spy
Brevard’s choking cry died as
the gushing flame enveloped him. He staggered,
flung up both arms and fell stone dead, the life seared
clean out of him, as a lamp sears a moth.
Gasping, blinded, the others scattered;
and for the third time while the room now
glowed with this unquenchable blossoming of flame Grantham
The spy’s body burst into a
sheaf of fire. Up past the lintel streamed the
burning swirl. Mute and annihilated, his charred
body dropped beside that of his mate.
The total time from challenge to complete
victory had not exceeded ten seconds.
“I exploded some of his cartridges!”
choked Grantham. shielding his wife from the glare,
while Gabriel protected Catherine.
“His his cartridge belt!” gasped
“Yes! And now, out out of here!”
“Brevard? We must save his body!”
cried Gabriel, pointing.
Grantham. “That hellish compound will burn
for hours! And in three minutes this whole place
will be a roaring furnace! Out of here out away!
We must save the hangar, at all hazards!”
Against their will, but absolutely
unable to approach the now wildly-roaring fire on
the floor that marked the spot where Brevard had fallen
in the Battle with Plutocracy, the comrades quickly
Raging fire now hemmed them on three
sides. Their only avenue of escape was through
the eastern windows, eight or ten feet above the ground.
Hastily snatching up such of the plans and papers as
he had not already secured and some of
these already were beginning to smoke and turn brown,
in the infernal heat Gabriel shielded Catherine’s
retreat. The others followed.
Craig and Grantham first jumped from
the windows, then caught Mrs. Grantham and Catherine
as Gabriel helped them to escape. He himself was
the last to leave the room, now a raging furnace.
Together they all ran from the building, and none
too soon; for suddenly the roof collapsed, a tremendous
burst of crackling flames and sheaved sparks leaped
high above the tree-tops, and the walls came crashing
In the welter of incandescence, where
now only the stone chimney stood and this,
too, was already cracking and swaying Brevard
had found his tomb, together with the two Air Trust
spies. All that pleasant, necessary place was
now a mass of white-hot ruin; all those books and
pictures now had turned to ash.
The five remaining comrades paused
by the hangar, and looked mournfully back at the still-leaping
volcano of destruction.
“Poor Brevard! Poor old
chap!” said Craig. He peered at the women.
Neither one was crying they were not that
type but both were pale.
“I don’t feel that way,”
said Gabriel. “Brevard is not to be pitied.
He’s to be envied! He died in the noblest
war we can conceive the war for the human
race! And his last act was to take part in a battle
that stamped out two vipers, Air Trust spies, who
would have joyed to burn us all alive!”
“Thank God, I got the Hell-hounds!”
muttered Craig. “Two less of Slade’s
infamous army, anyhow.” Though Gabriel knew
it not, the first one to fall was the same who had
battled with him in the trap at Rochester, the same
who had trailed him when he, Gabriel, had left the
Federal pen. So one score, at least, was settled.
“They’re gone, anyhow,”
said Gabriel, “and five of us still live and
I’ve still got the plans and all. Moreover,
the monoplanes are safe. The quicker we get away
from here, now, the better. Away, and to our last
remaining refuge near Port Colborne, on the shores
of Lake Erie. Other Air Trust forces may be here,
before morning. We must get away!”
A frightful shock awaited them when,
entering the hangar eager now to escape
at once from the scene of the tragedy they
beheld their aeroplanes.
By the ruddy light which shone in
through the wide doors, from the fire, they saw long
strips and tatters of canvas hanging from the ’planes.
Wrecked!” cried Gabriel, starting back aghast.
The others stared. Only too true;
the monoplanes were practically destroyed. Not
only had the spies, before attacking the refuge, slashed
the ’planes to rags, but they had also partly
dismantled the motors. Bits of machinery lay
scattered on the floor of the hangar.
Stunned and unable to gather speech
or coherent thought, the five Socialists stood staring.
Then, after a moment, Craig made shift to exclaim
“A good job, all right!
The curs must have got in at the window, and spent
an hour in this work. Whatever happened, they
didn’t intend we should have any means of retreat for
of course it’s out of the question for anybody
to get away from here through the forest over the ridges
and down the cliffs!”
“They meant to trap us, this
way, that’s certain,” added Gabriel.
“There surely will be others of the same breed,
here before morning. They must not find us here!”
“But Gabriel, how shall we escape?”
asked Catherine, her face illumined by the leaping
flames of the bungalow.
“How! In their own machine!
The machine that Slade and the Air Trust secret-service
gave them, to come here and catch or murder us!”
“By the Almighty! So we
will!” cried Grantham. “Come on, let’s
The little party hurried off toward
the landing-ground, a cleared and levelled space further
up the mountainside. The light of the burning
bungalow helped show them their path; and Craig had
also taken an electric flash-lamp from the hangar.
With this he led the way.
“Right! There it is!”
suddenly exclaimed Gabriel, pointing. Craig painted
a brush of electric light over the vague outlines of
the Air Trust machine, a steel racer of the latest
“A Floriot biplane,” said
he. “Will hold two and a passenger.
Familiar type. I guess all of us, here, can operate
They all even the women could.
For you must understand that after the Great Massacres
had foreshown the only possible trend the Movement
could take, practically all the leaders in the work
had studied aeronautics, also chemistry, as most essential
branches of knowledge in the inevitable war.
“Two, and a passenger,”
repeated Gabriel, as though echoing Craig’s
words. “Who goes first?”
“You!” said Grantham.
“You and Catherine, with Craig to bring the
machine back. You’re needed, now, at the
front imperatively needed. Freda and
I,” gesturing at his wife, “will hold the
fort, here will keep watch over our dead,
over poor old Brevard, the first to fall in this great,
A spirited argument followed.
Gabriel insisted on being left for the second trip.
A compromise was made by having him get the two women
out of danger, at once, leaving Craig and Grantham
on the mountain.
“I’ll send Hazen or Keyes
back with the ’plane, for you,” said he,
as he climbed into the driving seat, after the passengers
had been stowed. “That will be tomorrow
night. Of course, we daren’t fly by day.
And mind,” he added, adjusting his spark and
throttle, “mind you meet me with this very same
machine, safe and sound, at the Lake Erie refuge!”
“Why this same machine?” inquired Craig.
“Why? Because I intend
to use this, and no other, in the final attack.
Could poetic justice be finer than that the Air Trust
works be destroyed with the help of one of their own
No more was said, save brief good-byes.
Those were times when demonstrativeness, whether in
life or death, was at a discount. A hand-clasp
and a few last instructions as to the time and place
of meeting, sufficed. Then Gabriel pressed the
button of the self-starter and opened the throttle.
With a sudden gusty chatter, the engine
caught. A great wind sprang up, from the roaring,
whirling blades. The Floriot rolled easily forward,
speeded up, and gathered headway.
Gabriel suddenly rotated the rising-plane.
The great gull soared, careened and took the air with
majestic power. The watchers on the mountain-side
saw its hooded lights, that glowed upon its compass
and barometric-gauge, slowly spiralling upward, ever
upward, as Gabriel climbed with his two passengers.
Then the lights sped forward, northward,
in a long tangent, and, as they swiftly diminished
to mere specks, the echo of a farewell hail drifted
downward from the black and star-dusted emptiness above.
Craig turned to Grantham, when the
last gleam of light had faded in a swift trajectory.
“God grant they reach the last
remaining refuge safely!” said he, with deep
emotion. “And may their flight be quick
and sure! For the fate of the world, its hope
and its salvation from infinite enslavement, are whirling
through the trackless wastes of air, to-night!”